Home > The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(6)

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)(6)
Alexandra Bracken

I had no idea what he was talking about.

“When they picked you up, did they ask you questions?” he asked, standing. The room wasn’t large by any means. He was by my side in two steps, and I was in a full panic in two heartbeats. “Did your parents report your symptoms to the soldiers?”

“Symptoms?” I squeezed out. “I don’t have any symptoms—I don’t have the—”

He shook his head, looking more annoyed than anything else. “Calm down; you’re safe here. I’m not going to hurt you.” The white coat kept talking, his voice flat, something flickering in his eyes. The lines sounded practiced.

“There are many different kinds of symptoms,” he explained, leaning down to look at me eye to eye. All I could see were his crooked front teeth and the dark circles rimming his eyes. His breath smelled like coffee and spearmint. “Many different kinds of…children. I’m going to take a picture of your brain, and it’ll help us put you with the others who are like you.”

I shook my head. “I don’t have any symptoms! Grams is coming, she is, I swear—she’ll tell you, please!”

“Tell me, sweetheart, are you very good at math and puzzles? Greens are incredibly smart and have astonishing memories.”

My mind jumped back to the kids outside, to the colored X’s on the back of their shirts. Green, I thought. What had the other colors been? Red, Blue, Yellow, and—

And Orange. Like the boy with the bloody mouth.

“All right,” he said, taking a deep breath, “just lie back on that cot and we’ll get started. Now, please.”

I didn’t move. Thoughts were rushing too quickly to my head. It was a struggle to even look at him.

“Now,” he repeated, moving toward the machine. “Don’t make me call in one of the soldiers. They won’t be nearly as nice, believe me.” A screen on the side panel came alive with a single touch, and then the machine itself lit up. At the center of a gray circle was a bright white light, blinking as it set itself up for another test. It was breathing out hot air in sputters and whines that seemed to prick every pore on my body.

All I could think was, He’ll know. He’ll know what I did to them.

My back was flat against the door again, my hand blindly searching for the handle. Every single lecture my dad had ever given me about strangers seemed to be coming true. This was not a safe place. This man was not nice.

I was shaking so hard, he might have thought I was going to faint. That, or he was going to force me onto the cot himself and hold me there until the machine came down and locked over me.

I hadn’t been ready to run before, but I was now. As my fingers tightened on the door handle, I felt his hand push through my unruly mass of dark hair and seize the back of my neck. The shock of his freezing hand on my flushed skin made me flinch, but it was the explosion of pain at the base of my skull that made me cry out.

He stared at me, unblinking, his eyes suddenly unfocused. But I was seeing everything—impossible things. Hands drumming on a car’s steering wheel, a woman in a black dress leaning forward to kiss me, a baseball flying toward my face out on a diamond, an endless stretch of green field, a hand running through a little girl’s hair… The images played out behind my closed eyes like an old home movie. The shapes of people and objects burned themselves into my retinas and stayed there, floating around behind my eyelids like hungry ghosts.

Not mine, my mind screamed. These don’t belong to me.

But how could they have been his? Each image—were they memories? Thoughts?

Then I saw more. A boy, the same scanner machine above him flickering and smoking. Yellow. I felt my lips form the words, as if I had been there to say them. I saw a small red-haired girl from across a room much like this one; saw her lift a finger, and the table and laptop in front of her rise several inches from the ground. Blue—again, the man’s voice in my head. A boy holding a pencil between his hands, studying it with a terrifying intensity—the pencil bursting into flames. Red. Cards with pictures and numbers on them held up in front of a child’s face. Green.

I squeezed my eyes shut, but I couldn’t pull back from the images that came next—the lines of marching, muzzled monsters. I was standing high above, looking down through rain-spattered glass, but I saw the handcuffs and the chains. I saw everything.

I’m not one of them. Please, please, please…

I fell, dropping to my knees, bracing my hands against the tile, trying to keep from being sick all over myself and the floor. The white coat’s hand still gripped the back of my neck. “I’m Green,” I sobbed, the words half lost to the machine’s buzzing. The light had been bright before, but now it only amplified the pounding behind my eyes. I stared into his blank eyes, willing him to believe me. “I’m Green…please, please…”

But I saw my mother’s face, the smile the boy with the broken mouth had given me, like he had recognized something of himself in me. I knew what I was.

“Green…”

I looked up at the sound of the voice that floated down to me. I stared, and he stared right back, his eyes unfocused. He was mumbling something now, his mouth full of mush, like he was chewing on the words.

“I’m—”

“Green,” he said, shaking his head. His voice sounded stronger. I was still on the floor when he went to shut down the machine, and so shocked when he sat back down at the desk that I actually forgot to cry. But it wasn’t until he picked up the green spray paint and drew that enormous X over the back of the uniform shirt and handed it to me that I remembered to start breathing.

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